Friday, January 30, 2009

Single payer health care: It's aliiiiive!

Best political news of the month: Single-payer advocates are refusing to fade quietly from the field in favor of the tiny-slice-of-the-loaf plan of Health Care for America Now:

A coalition of liberal advocacy groups and labor unions ... announced Wednesday the launch of a lobbying campaign to build support for a health care overhaul that would expand Medicare, the health entitlement for the elderly, to cover everyone and act as the "single payer," putting health insurance companies out of business.

The only hope for getting any public pool of health coverage at all is if 'Medicare for All' is a credible threat.

This diary at DailyKos outlines the changes in this Congress' version of H.R. 676 and is filled with excellent action suggestions and links to further resources.

[Hat tip Daily Kos]

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Israel's Lies

Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defence but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.

I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events. Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties.

Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie.

Israel's Lies, Henry Siegman, January 15, 2009
Siegman is director of the US Middle East Project in New York and a visiting research professor at SOAS, University of London. He is a former national director of the American Jewish Congress and of the Synagogue Council of America.

h/t Eric Williams at Wampum, who also provides a list of links for relief contributions for Gaza. Eric's Gaza posts have been consistently insightful, starting with one on Christmas day that essentially predicted the events about to unfold.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009


If you can't enjoy moments of joy, dignity, unity, and celebration when the occasion arises, then it's hard to endure the much more constant parade of disappointments and injustice.

In that spirit: Is this the hottest first couple in U.S. history, or what?

. . .

Thank you, President Barack Obama, for an excellent start.


Sunday, January 18, 2009


There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

Pete Seeger just led the crowd at the 'We Are One' inaugural celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in the most beautiful version of 'This Land is Your Land' I ever hope to see. Flanked by Bruce Springsteen and his grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, he followed Obama, the prime spot on the program. And he used several of the less-frequently-sung lyrics, including my favorite verse above. [video Update/Irony Alert: 2:30 pm, 19 Jan - HBO yanked the video for copyright violation. Update 2: 10:15 am, 20 Jan - Another one is up, for who knows how long. Happy inaugural day!]

Same old flannel shirt, knit cap, and blue jeans -- no dress-up concessions to the teevee production (whose message to performers and crowd alike was clearly "wear black"). No nod to the President-Elect; Pete was speaking directly to the people.

It's not substance, I know. It's not as if we just passed single-payer health care, or are likely to. But it was an acknowledgement, no, a celebration of dirty effing left-wing hippies that sent out a mighty and much-needed encouraging message of inclusion. Thanks, Bruce.

The event's other high spots: The opener, with Bruce in black and a gospel choir in red singing 'The Rising'. Powerfully simple. Garth Brooks doing a fine version of 'Shout!' with the same Washington Youth Choir, a surprising and smart choice on many levels. The shot of the vast crowd jumping and jiving was unexpectedly moving. And Stevie Wonder's 'Higher Ground', which had the first family up, stepping and clapping with the precision of a backup band. Much respect. Most of the rest was Hollywood schmalz, but who's counting?

HBO's putting it on again tonight at 7:00 and 11:30 pm, open to all with digital cable or satellite TV. (Or wait for the DVD -- but viewer discretion is advised: the bloom may be off the rose by then. ;>)
Image: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Snowballs in hell

In a Ha'aretz analysis that by turns examines and displays the cynicism and delusions of all parties to the slaughter in Gaza, this passage actually made me laugh out loud, but not in a good way:

In just 11 days, president-elect Barack Obama will take office. On Tuesday he was asked about the war between Hamas and Israel. He said he was concerned about the civilian casualties on both sides. That concern could turn into anger at Israel in the course of the inauguration ceremony. Washington expects - though it is not saying so out loud - that Israel will end the war before Obama is sworn in as president. [my emphasis]

Anger at Israel in the course of the inauguration ceremony is about as likely as 80-degree temperatures on Inaugural Day. No, there's nothing for the Israelis to fear from the new administration, or from Congress. If the Israeli government ends its assault before Obama is sworn in, it will be for their own internal political reasons.

It certainly won't be because they've run out of bullets, bombs, and shells with which to bury Gazans in the rubble of their houses. Those have our names on them. Anyone who wants to pretend that the current Israeli onslaught wasn't green-lighted by the U.S. government needs to explain the unusually large, irregular, commercial shipments of weapons and ammunition from Sunny Point, NC to Ashdod, an Israeli port 20 miles from Gaza -- 3000 tons in December, another 1000 tons planned for this month.

But the ice is cracking. The discussion of the occupation can no longer be shut down or controlled here as it used to. The spectacle of active political support for Israel's latest atrocities is increasing the disconnect between the American people and our elected "representatives" and media elite.

As with so many things, the change seems to be coming too late to do much good, but you never know where it will end up. The important thing is to push it along when you can.

Launching Qassam rockets over the Gaza border is a war crime. Over a period of years, the rockets have killed dozens of Israeli civilians and a few Palestinians, injured others, caused damage, and fostered a climate of fear and uncertainty.

Years of U.S.-Israeli blockade and economic strangulation, "targeted assassinations", an attempted coup against the elected government, with periodic and ever-more-savage aerial bombing, missile and tank assaults on densely populated areas: these constitute a far greater war crime, one in which we are directly complicit. More than a third of the 800+ killed since December 27 are women and children; well more than half are civilians and noncombatants. It is simply wrong to characterize the Israeli actions as self-defense.

Tell your Senators and your House member how you view their active cheerleading for Israel's assault on Gaza. If you're represented by one of the 27 House representatives who voted 'no' or 'present', please thank and encourage them.

Update: 2:10 pm, 12 January - Rep. Dennis Kucinich speaking [4 min video] in opposition to the House resolution on Jan. 9. David Luban post on the legalities and illegalities of Israel's current assault on Gaza. Pat Lang's comments on IDF ground forces.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

The beginning...

...finally, of the Al Franken Decade. Or the Al Franken six years, at least. Close enough.

Bleak, even horrific news abounds. With the new year only five days old, I'm trying to avoid being overwhelmed by taking satisfaction from the bright spots that present themselves.

Update: 5:50 pm, 30 June - Okaaaaay, that was a long pause. Now the Al Franken Decade gets underway!

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